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The Worst Albums Ever Made – ‘Anthem’ (2003) by Less Than Jake

11 Jul

By Slick Nick

I’ve been listening to punk bands since 1999, and it’s hard to think of a more worthless sub genre of music than ska punk. Replace any semblance of creativity in a pop punk band with trumpets and colourful shirts, and what presents itself is an irritating and generally unpopular style of music. A record label’s ska punk band/s will almost always be their lowest sellers, regardless of whether the label is an independent or a major.

Being a ska punk album released in the worst ever decade for rock music, I was expecting ‘Anthem’ to be a shitter. The fifth studio album by Less Than Jake (LTJ) doesn’t disappoint in that respect, being one of the worst albums ever made. Appropriately, this was also the Florida band’s return to a major label.

Given their kerazy live show reputation and cartoony album artwork, on record LTJ are actually surprisingly dull. Listen to any Greenday or Blink182 album, and music-wise the entire span of the band’s creativity will be more than covered. Listening to ‘Anthem’ in 2011 as I have done for this post is quite a mind-numbing experience.

A band doesn’t need to be as skilled as Rush in terms of music to keep me entertained, but they damn well better have some killer hooks to lead their songs if they claim to be a pop punk group. ‘Anthem’ not only lacks tunes, but the one or two it does have sound very familiar. A well-trained ear isn’t really required to discover that the melody lines tend to follow the same path from song to song. I am sure reading the sheet music to this record would evoke multiple feelings of de ja vu.

LTJ have two vocalists who tend to share singing duties from song to song – a rarity in rock music. Guitarist Chris Demakes isn’t too bad, in a generic sort of way, but bassist Roger Manganelli really flops on this album. His lead vocal on second single ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’ is poor; whiny and irritating, it barely holds the tune together. Incidentally, this song features some of the very sparse proper ska/raggae moments on the album.

Roger: A dreadlock for every time his singing has annoyed me

Speaking of singles, ‘She’s Gonna Break Soon’ really is the pits. I remember when it first came out and was never off the music channels, much to the annoyance of my younger self. I could easily ignore the band’s music but not when this shitter came out. The song really is the crappest, barrel-scraping generic, throw away pop-punk garbage imaginable. It’s also quite a cynical stab at marketing, highlighting their target demographic (tedious angsty teens) lyrically and visually in the song. It makes Papa Roach’s ‘Last Resort’ video look subtle and profound.

Finally, as a ‘bonus’, and I use that word very loosely, LTJ offer a breakneck, inferior cover version of Cheap Trick’s majestic ‘Surrender’. The charm in the original was the melody and the fucking immense, crunchy old guitar sound. It doesn’t work as a 2-minute pop punk song. It just rubs salt into the wounds of the listener; the band have to spoil a good song as well as delivering a miserable album of their own terrible compositions.

I find LTJ’s releases in the wake of ‘Anthem’ quite amusing. Obviously they had blown their creative load on these crap songs, so the next release labelled ‘B Is For B-Sides’ was an album of outtakes from the ‘Anthem’ sessions. Songs too crap for even that album must be beyond worthless. Next came a live album, before they remixed the B-sides album for ANOTHER release. It beggars belief that these fellas grew up in the punk rock scene.

Materials found being used for bedding in the LTJ tour bus in 2009

The Worst Albums Ever Made – ‘Brain Drain’ (1989) by The Ramones

21 Jun

By Slick Nick

It was the year 2000, Christmas day. The world would soon be partying. He had more important things on his mind.

The last few months had been a journey, a musical one. The days of only listening to Oasis and Prodigy albums seemed long gone. It was a thirst for loud, fast guitars and catchy melodies that drove him towards the burgeoning CD rack now.

He’d been studying hard as had his college friends – the A Levels would not pass themselves, after all.

Gotta have the A Levels so you can go to University, get a good job, nice home in the suburbs, Ford Mondeo, two kids…

It was a future within arms reach, and he’d be taking punk music along for the ride as well. Bands like Greenday, Offspring, Rancid and most treasured of all, The Ramones. These bands would never make crap music, would they?

He sat in his bedroom, Nesquik in hand, surverying this year’s payload from good ol’ Kris Kringle. Bad Religion’s ‘Suffer’ and ‘Generator’ albums lay at the side of the desk; they could wait. ‘We’re Outta Here’, the final Ramones show, sat close by in compact disc format; he’d bide his time, savour the rest of their discography, before enjoying that one. What he really wanted to do was play ‘Brain Drain’, their 1989 studio album he’d just recieved. The disturbing cover was alluring, and suggested an unforgettable listening experience. He couldn’t wait.

Merry Christmas.

He knew little of the band’s story but took simple pleasure in their early work. These short, catchy punk songs struck a bar chord with him. He’d always have the Ramones on when writing psychology essays.

He removed the seal of ‘Brain Drain’ and placed the CD in the stereo, a cheap device that would surely struggle to cope with the power of what would be unleashed. If the Ramones were close to the bone in the seventies, how extreme would they have become by the late eighties?

He pressed ‘play’.

A strange sensation washed over him, strange because he’d never felt it before whilst playing a Ramones album. It was a feeling he only got whilst listening to extremely shit music.

It’s punk, Jim, but not as we know it.

He laughed out loud at the thought. The eighties drum sound was unavoidable, but the problems ran far deeper into the heart of the album. It was fundamentally bad song-writing.

Opener ‘I Believe In Miracles’ was far too slow to begin a Ramones album, sounding tired and old compared to the likes of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ years earlier. ‘Don’t Bust My Chops’ suffered from a distinct lack of melody. Years of alcoholism had taken its toll on Joey Ramone’s vocal chords; his singing was barely acceptable on this recording.

He continued to listen, hoping no family members would overhear. If Dad caught him mid way through ‘All Screwed Up’, he’d never live it down, especially after he always gave the old man such a hard time over his ‘shit’ music collection.

Would kill for some Mark Knopfler or Fairport Convention about now though, wouldn’t you?

He hit the ‘stop’ button and snatched the CD out of the stereo, recoiling as the cold, lifeless plastic touched his trembling hand. Yes, this was definitely a Ramones album. There had no been a mistake at the packaging plant. He longed to cast this monstrosity aside and never think about it again, but that was never an option.

‘I must finish what is begun.’

The second half began with ‘Pet Semetary’; disappointing book, terrible film, underwhelming song.

‘Learn To Listen’, despite its crappiness, reminded him of the early Ramones material. At a merciful length of 1.51, it was too little, too late.

He took a sip of Nesquik, wincing at the sweetness. He’d earned it.

‘Comeback Baby, Comeback’ was the album’s absolute low point. He’d only read about songs like these in Stephen King books. He never thought one would cross hs path for real.

Why are they being sexy? They’re not a sexy band, they’re not a…

Silence.

‘Merry Christmas I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight’ had faded out, closing the album, reminding him of Cliff Richard, making him realise what the season was all about. Family. Eastenders. The birth of Christ. It was not about bad music, at least not in unlicensed residential premises.

He returned the CD to its case. He stared one last time at the cover, the cover that promised so much.

He placed it in the CD rack, a giant plastic prison from which it would never escape. Many layers of dust would cover it in the years to come.

Lunch was ready. Time to join the family. They’d ask him what he’d been doing for the last 35.01 minutes. He wouldn’t say. The memories of the morning would only linger in the deepest, darkest corners of his mind.

He had hoped the events of that morning, where he sat through one of the worst albums ever made, would never be re-lived. Then a blog was created, one with barely any readers, that had a category covering terrible music. He knew what he had to do.

Merry fucking Christmas.

END

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